Came down … and taught for which came down … taught, A.V.; saying for and said, A.V.; custom ( ἔθος) for manner, A.V. Except ye be circumcised, etc. The question thus raised nearly effected the disruption of the Church, and was the most serious controversy that had yet arisen. If the views broached by these Judaean Christians had prevailed, the whole character of Christianity would have been changed, and its existence probably cut short. How great the danger was appears from even Peter and Barnabas having wavered in their opinion. (For St. Paul's treatment of the subject, see Romans 2:25, etc.; 4.; Galatians 5:2-6; Galatians 6:12-15, etc.) The expression, τινὲς κατέλθοντες ἀπὸ τῆς ἰουδαίας, is so like that in Galatians 2:11, πρὸ τοῦ ἐλθεῖν τινὰς ἀπὸ ἰακώβου as to suggest very strongly the consideration whether Peter was not at Antioch at this time, and whether the scene related in Galatians 2:11, etc., did not precede, and in fact cause, the Council of Jerusalem. In this case the "dissension and disputation" spoken of in Galatians 2:2 would include and directly point to the memorable rebuke given by Paul to Peter; and we should understand that Peter, accepting Paul's rebuke, preceded him and Barnabas, and prepared the way at Jerusalem for the solution arrived at. And, indeed, Peter's words at Jerusalem are almost an echo of Paul's words addressed to him at Antioch. If Barnabas had shown a leaning towards the Judaizing party, he would the more readily have been accepted by them as one of the embassy. The chief objection to this hypothesis is that in Galatians 2:11 Peter's visit to Antioch seems to be spoken of as something subsequent to the journey of St. Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem. But it is not in the least necessary so to understand it. St, Paul's mention of his visit to Jerusalem might naturally recall the incident which had led to it, and which was another example of his own independence. Farrar places Peter's visit to Antioch between the Council of Jerusalem and the quarrel with Barnabas, in the time indicated in verse 35 of this chapter (vol. 1. ch. 23.), and so do Conybeare and Howson, Meyer, and Alford. Renan and Lewin (vol. 1. ch. 13.) place it after St. Paul's return to Antioch, at the conclusion of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:22, Acts 18:23). No absolute certainty can be arrived at, but see note to verse 35. Custom (see Acts 16:21); τὰ ἔθη is the technical term for the Mosaic institutions, used by Josephus and Philo (see too Acts 6:14; Acts 21:21, note).
And when for when therefore, A.V.; questioning for disputation, A.V.; the brethren (in italics) appointed for they determined, A.V. Certain other of them. One of these would be Titus (Galatians 2:1). The circumstance that, on this occasion, St. Paul did go up to those who were apostles before him, to consult with them on a matter of doctrine, shows at once why he refers so pointedly to this visit in Galatians 2:1, etc., and is almost conclusive evidence that this visit is the one there referred to. The companionship of Barnabas; the agreement of the expression, "I went up by revelation," with the fact that he was sent by the Church, doubtless in obedience to some voice of the Spirit, like that mentioned in Acts 13:2; the occasion, a dispute about the circumcision of Gentile converts; the line taken by Paul and Barnabas in declaring the conversion of the Gentiles (Acts 15:4, Acts 15:12; Galatians 2:1-21 :27), and the result (Acts 15:19; Galatians 2:5, Galatians 2:7, Galatians 2:9), are all strong, not to say conclusive, marks of the identity of the two visits. The apostles and elders. This phrase marks the constitution of the governing part of the Church of Jerusalem. The addition in Acts 13:22 and Acts 13:23 of "the whole Church," and (according to the T.R.) of "the brethren," shows the part the body of the believers had in approving and sanctioning the decisions of the elders. The transaction marks the position of the Church of Jerusalem as the metropolitan Church of Christendom.
They therefore … passed for and … they passed, A.V.; both Phoenicia for Phonice, A.V. Being brought on their way ( προπεμφθέντες). The word προπέμπειν has two distinct though allied meanings: one is "to conduct a person on his way," as in Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5; the other is "to help a person on his way, by supplying him with all necessaries for his journey," as in Romans 15:24; 1 Corinthians 16:6; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, Colossians 1:16; Titus 3:13; 3 John 1:6. This last is the meaning here. Being the messengers of the Church, they traveled at the Church's expense. Both Phoenicia and Samaria. Their course would be through Berytus, Type, Sidon, and Samaria. Declaring the conversion of the Gentiles. There was an especial reason for doing so, as it had a strong bearing upon the great controversy about to be decided at Jerusalem.
The apostles for of the apostles, A.V.; the elders for elders, A.V.; rehearsed for declared, A.V. They were received of the Church, etc. Being themselves the formal envoys of the Church of Antioch, they were formally received as such by the Church of Jerusalem, headed by the apostles and elders.
Who for which, A.V.; it is for that it was, A.V.; charge for command, A.V. There rose up, etc. As soon as Paul and Barnabas had finished their recital of the conversion of the heathen to whom they had preached the gospel, certain Christian Pharisees who were at the meeting disturbed the joy of the brethren and the unanimity of the assembly by getting up and saying that all the Gentile converts must be circumcised and keep the Law. This, of course, would have included Titus, who was present with St. Paul (Galatians 2:1, Galatians 2:3). The Epistle to the Galatians deals directly and forcibly with this question.
The elders for elders, A.V.; were gathered for came, A.V.; to for for to, A.V. The question was too important, and, perhaps, the persons who advanced the objections too considerable, to allow of a decision to be taken on the spot. A special meeting of the Church was called to consider the matter.
Questioning for disputing, A.V., as in Acts 15:2; brethren for men and brethren, A.V., as in Acts 7:2, etc.; you for us, A.V. and T.R.; by my mouth the Gentiles for the Gentiles by my mouth, A.V. Questioning. It was a repetition of the same scene that took place at Antioch. Peter, etc. It seems to have been wise on Peter's part to allow the meeting to exhaust itself by fruitless disputations before he rose to speak. His rising, with all the authority of his person and position, commanded immediate attention. A good while ago; literally, from ancient days, or still more exactly, from the days of the beginning of the gospel ( ἡμεραὶ ἀρχαίαι), days belonging to the beginning ( ἀρχή) of the Church's existence, and dating far back in Peter's own apostolic life. Nothing can be more natural than this allusion to the conversion of Cornelius, and the gift of the Holy Ghost to the Gentile inmates of his house, as related in Acts 10:44.
Heart for hearts, A.V. ( καρδιογνώστης). Bare them witness; i.e. set the mark of his approval upon them, vouched for their sincerity (see the use of the verb μαρτυρέω in Luke 4:22; John 3:26; Acts 6:3; Acts 10:22, etc.).
He made no distinction for put no difference, A.V. (comp. Acts 10:20, note); cleansing for purifying, A.V. This is exactly the doctrine of Galatians 2:16 and Romans 3:30, with which compare also Romans 3:11.
That ye should put for to put, A.V. The Greek words cannot be construed as the A.V. takes them. It is not a Greek construction to say πειράζειν τινα ποιεῖν κακόν, "to tempt any one to do evil." The infinitive ἐπιθεῖναι must be taken gerundially, "by placing," or "putting," and the sense is—Why do you try God's patience by your provocation in putting an unbearable yoke upon the necks of those who believe? Or, "as if he had not power to save by faith" (Chrysostom).
We shall be saved through the grace, etc., for through the grace … we shall be saved, A.V.; Jesus for Jesus Christ, A.V. and T.R.; in like manner for even, A.V. "How full of power are these words! The same that Paul says at large in the Epistle to the Romans, the same says Peter here" (Chrysost., ' Hem.,' 32.).
And for then, A.V.; they hearkened for gave audience, A.V.; rehearsing what signs for declaring what miracles, A.V. Kept silence; marking the contrast between the noisy questionings and disputings which had preceded Peter's speech, and the quiet orderly attention with which they now listened to Paul and Barnabas, telling them of the conversion of the Gentiles. It recalls Virgil's description of the effect of the presence of a man of grave piety upon an excited crowd—
"Tum, pielate gravem ac meritis si forte virum quem
Aspexere, silent, arrectisque auribus adslant."
Brethren for men and brethren, A.V., as Acts 15:7. James answered. James's place as presiding bishop is here distinctly marked by his summing up the debate. "This (James)was bishop, as they say, and, therefore, he speaks last" (Chrysost., ' Hom.,' 33.). And again, "No word speaks John here, no word the other apostles, but held their peace, for James was invested with the chief rule." "He says well with authority, 'My sentence is'" (ibid.). A remarkable testimony against papal supremacy.
Symeon for Simeon, A.V.; rehearsed for declared, A.V.; first God for God at the first, A.V. Symeon. This is the only place (unless Symeon is the right reading in 2 Peter 1:1) in which Simon Peter's name is given in this Hebrew form, which is most proper in the month of James speaking to Palestine Jews. Singularly enough, Chrysostom was misled by it, and thought the prophecy of Simeon in Luke 1:31 was meant, How first; corresponding to the" good while ago" of Luke 1:7. Did visit, etc. The construction ἐπεσκέψατο λαβεῖν is very unusual, and indeed stands alone. The verb always has an accusative case after it (Acts 6:3; Acts 7:23; Acts 15:36), unless Luke 1:68 is an exception, which, however, it hardly is. There are two ways of construing the phrase. One is to consider it as elliptical, and to supply, as the A.V. and R.V. do, τὰ ἐθνή. So Alford, who compares the construction in Luke 1:25, where ἐπ ἐμέ must be supplied. But this is a harsh construction. The other and better way is to take ἐπεσκεψατο, not in the sense of" visiting," but of" looking out," or "endeavoring to find something." The sense of the infinitive after the verb is nearly equivalent to" look out for and took," literally, looked out how he might take. With a slight modification of meaning, Irenaeus (in 'Speaker's Commentary') renders it" Excogitavit accipere," "planned" or "contrived to take." A people for his Name; 1.e. to be called by his Name. λαός was the peculiar designation of "the people" of God, answering to the Hebrew מעַ .
These things for this, A.V.; I will for will, A.V.; fallen for fallen down, A.V.
May for might, A.V.
Who maketh these things known, etc., for who doeth all these things (in Acts 15:17 of A.V.); known for known unto God are all his works, A.V. and T.R. Known from the beginning of the world. The above passage from Amos 9:11, Amos 9:12, is quoted, not very exactly, though with no change of sense, from the LXX., where it ends with the words, "saith the Lord, who doeth all these things," as in the A.V. But the LXX. verse 17 differs widely from the present Hebrew text. For whereas the Hebrew has, "That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen that are called by my Name," the LXX. (Cod. Alex.) have ὅπως ἂν ἐκζητήσωσιν οἱ κατάλοιποι τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸν κύριον καὶ ππάντα τὰ ἔθνη κ. τ. λ., where it is evident that they read וּשׁרְדְיִ, seek after, for וּשׁרְיֵ, possess, and מדָאָ, men, for מוֹדאֶ, Edom. There is every appearance of the LXX ., followed here by St. James, having preserved the true reading. As regards the reading of the R.V. in verse 18, it is a manifest corruption. It is not the reading of either the Hebrew or the Greek version of Amos, or of any other version; and it makes no sense. Whereas the T.R., which is the reading of Irenaeus (3.12.), as Meyer truly says, "presents a thought completely clear, pious, noble, and inoffensive as regards the connection," though he thinks that a reason for rejecting it. Nothing could be more germane to St. James's argument than thus to show from the words of Amos that God's present purpose of taking the Gentiles to be his people was, like all his other works, formed from the beginning of the world (comp. Ephesians 1:9, Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:5, Ephesians 3:6; 2 Timothy 1:9, etc.). As regards the interpretation of the prophecy of Amos intended, the idea seems to be that that apparent ruin of the house and family of David which culminated in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus would be followed by those "sure mercies of David," which consisted in his resurrection from the dead, his exaltation to the right hand of God, and the gathering in of the Gentiles to his kingdom. The phrase, "the tabernacle of David," is rather difficult, because the word in the Hebrew is דיזִדָ תכַּסֻ, tabernacle or booth of David. It is the word used for the booths at the Feast of Tabernacles, and denotes a temporary shed of branches or the like of a very humble character. It is difficult to say why this word was used, unless it was to show that the house of David had fallen to a low estate before it was pulled down.
Judgment for sentence, A.V. ( ἐγὼ κρίνω); turn for are turned, A.V.
this is explained by εἰδωλοθύτων, things offered to idols, though some apply the "pollutions" to all the things here mentioned, not the idols only. Later St. Paul somewhat enlarged the liberty of Gentile converts in respect to meats offered to idols (see 1 Corinthians 8:4-13; 1 Corinthians 10:25-28). What is strangled, etc. The things forbidden are all practices not looked upon as sins by Gentiles, but now enjoined upon them as portions of the Law of Moses which were to be binding upon them, at least for a time, with a view to their living in communion and fellowship with their Jewish brethren. The necessity for some of the prohibitions would cease when the condition of the Church as regards Jews and Gentiles was altered; others were of eternal obligation.
From generations of old for of old time, A.V.; sabbath for sabbath day, A.V. The meaning of this verse seems to be that, in requiring the above compliances, the council was not enjoining anything new or strange, because the Gentiles who attended the synagogues were familiar with these Mosaic doctrines. It has been often stated that these four prohibitions were in substance the same as the so-called seven precepts of Noah, which were binding upon proselytes of the gate. This is, however, scarcely borne out by the facts. The four prohibitions seem to have been a temporary arrangement adapted to the then condition of the Church, with a view to enabling Christian Jews and Gentiles to live in brotherly fellowship. The Jew was not to require more of his Gentile brother: the Gentile was not to concede less to his Jewish brother. St. Augustine ('Cont. Manich.,' 32, 13), quoted by Meyer, ridicules the idea of Christians in his time being bound by the law of things strangled (see Hooker and Bishop Sanderson, quoted by Wordsworth, in the same sense).
It seemed good to for pleased it, A.V.; the elders for elders, A.V.; to choose men out of their company and send them, etc., for to send chosen men of their own company, A.V.; Barsabbas for Barsabas, A.V. and T.R., as Acts 1:23. To choose men, etc. This is a necessary, change, because the middle aorist ( ἐκκεξαμένους) cannot have a passive meaning (chosen); see verse 40. Chief men ( ἡγουμένους); literally, leaders. So in Luke 22:26 ὁ ἡγούμενος is rendered, "He that is chief." In Hebrews 13:7, οἱ ἡγούμενοι ὑμῶν is, "Them which have the rule over you;" your spiritual rulers. Silas seems to be a contraction of Silvanus, like Lucas for Lucanus. In the Acts he is always called Silas, in the Epistles of St. Paul and St. Peter, Silvanus. Going as direct emissaries from James and the Church of Jerusalem, and Judas would have great weight with the Jews in Syria and Cilicia.
Wrote thus by them for wrote letters by them after this manner, A.V.; the elder brethren for elders and brethren, A.V.; unto … greeting for send greeting unto, etc., A.V., as Acts 23:1-35. 26. The elder brethren, etc. The grammar of the sentence is irregular, as there is nothing for γράψαντες to agree with. But "the elder brethren" is a phrase unknown to the Scriptures, and it is much more in accordance with the feeling of the times that "the brethren," i.e. the whole Church, should be included in the salutation. Greeting. It is remarkable that the only other place in the New Testament where this Greek salutation occurs is James 1:1.
The words in the A.V. and the T.R., saying, Ye must be circumcised and keep the Law, are omitted in the R.T. and the R.V.; commandment for such commandment, A.V. The certain which went out from us are the same as the "certain men" which "came down from Judaea," of Acts 15:1. The word rendered subverting ( ἀνασκευάζοντες) occurs nowhere else in Scripture or in the LXX. It is spoken properly of a person who moves and carries off all the goods and furniture from the house which he is quitting. Hence to "disturb," "throw into confusion, turn upside down," and the like. To whom we gave no commandment. Observe the distinct disavowal by James of having authorized those who went forth from him and the Jerusalem Church to require the circumcision of the Gentiles. The A.V. expresses the meaning most clearly.
Having come to for being assembled with, A.V.; to choose out men and send them for to send chosen men, A.V. (see note on Acts 15:22). Having come, etc. The Greek is capable of either meaning. Alford prefers that of the A.V. Others think that stress is laid upon the decree being unanimous. Our beloved Barnabas and Paul. James and the council thus gave their full and open support to Barnabas and Paul. Observe that Barnabas is named first, as in verse 12.
Themselves also shall for shall also, A.V.; by word of mouth for by mouth, A.V. Judas and Silas (see Acts 10:7, note).
It seemed good, etc. The formula is remarkable. It implies the consciousness on the part of the council that they had "the mind of the Spirit;" but how this mind of the Spirit was communicated we are not expressly told. There may have been some "revelation," similar to that recorded in Acts 13:2; Acts 10:19; Galatians 2:1, etc. It is, however, generally understood as resting upon Christ's promise to be with his Church always. Hefele quotes Cyprian as writing to Pope Cornelius in the name of the Council of A.D. 252: "Placuit nobis, Sancto Spiritu suggerente;" and the Synod of Aries as saying, "Placuit, praesenti Spiritu Sancto." And this is the general language of the synods. Constantine claimed for the decrees of the three hundred bishops at Nicaea the same authority as if they had been "solius Filii Dei sententia." But, as Bishop Wordsworth on Acts 15:28 wisely says, "It cannot be held that councils of the Church now are entitled to adopt the words of the text in the framing of canons."
Things sacrificed for meats offered, A.V.; it shall be well with you for ye shall do well, A.V. The phrase εὗ πράσσειν means to" prosper," to "fare well" (comp. Ephesians 6:21, "How I do").
They, when they were dismissed, came down for when they were dismissed, they came, A.V.; having gathered for when they had gathered, A.V. The multitude does not exactly express the idea of τὸ πλῆθος, which is the fullness or the whole of the body spoken of. Thus Luke 1:10, πᾶν τὸ πλῆθος τοῦ λαοῦ is "The whole congregation;" Luke 2:13, πλῆθος στρατιᾶς οὐρανίου is "The whole heavenly host;" Luke 19:37, ἄπαν τὸ πλῆθος τῶν μαθητῶν, "The whole company of the disciples;" also Acts 6:2 and Acts 4:32, τὸ πλῆθος τῶν πιστευσάντων is "The whole company of believers;" Acts 22:1-30 :36, τὸ πλῆθος τοῦ λαοῦ is "The whole body of the people;" in Acts 22:12 of this chapter, πᾶν τὸ πλῆθος is "The whole Church of Jerusalem.'' So here, τὸ πλῆθος means "The whole Church."
And when they had read it for which when they had read, A.V.
Being themselves also prophets for being prophets also themselves, A.V. Being themselves also prophets, exhorted, etc. Observe the connection of exhortation with prophecy, and compare the explanation of the name of Barnabas in Acts 4:36, note. Confirmed them; ἐπεστήριξαν, as verse 41 and Acts 14:22; Acts 18:23. Nothing is so unsettling as controversy; but the preaching of these "chief men" brought back men's minds to the solid faith and hope of the gospel. How rich the Church of Antioch was at this time, with Paul and Barnabas, Judas and Silas, and probably Titus, and some, if not all, of those mentioned in Acts 13:1, for their teachers.
Spent some time there for tarried there a space, A.V. (see Acts 18:23; Acts 20:3; James 4:13); dismissed for let go, A.V. those that had sent them forth for the apostles, A.V. and T.R.
This verse is omitted in the R.T. and by the best manuscripts and commentators. It seems to have been put in to explain Acts 15:40. But Silas may have returned to Jerusalem, as stated in Acts 15:33, and come back again to Antioch, from having formed a strong attachment to St. Paul and his views.
But Paul for Paul also, A.V.; tarried for continued, A.V. It is at this time that Meyer and other commentators (see Acts 15:1, note) place Peter's visit to Antioch mentioned in Galatians 2:11. But it is quite inconceivable that Peter, with all the influence of the Jerusalem Cornell fresh upon him, and after the part he himself took in it, and when his own emissaries, Silas and Judas, had just left Antioch, should act the part there ascribed to him. Nor is it within the region of probability that, so soon after the council, any should have come "from James" to unsay what James had said and written at the council. We may with much confidence place Peter's visit to Antioch before the council, as suggested in note to verse 1.
After some days for some days after, A.V.; return now for go again, A.V.; the brethren for our brethren, A.V. and T.R.; wherein we proclaimed for where we have preached, A.V.; fare for do, A.V. After some days is hardly equivalent to μετά τινας ἡμέρας. The expression in Greek is quite indefinite as to time, and may cover months as well as days. That it does cover a considerable length of time we gather from the expression in Acts 15:33, that Judas and Silas "tarried some time at Jerusalem," followed by that in Acts 15:35, that after their departure "Paul and Barnabas tarried ( διέτριβον) in Antioch." We can hardly suppose the two periods together to have included much less than a year. Let us return, etc. The singular loving care of Paul for his young converts appears here.
Was minded for determined, A.V. and T.R.; John also for John, A.V. and T.R.; who was called for whose surname was, A.V. Was minded. It is doubtful which is the true reading, ἐβουλεύσατο or ἐβούλετο. The difference of meaning is small. The first means "took council with himself," i.e. planned, thought, to take Barnabas; the second, "wished," i.e. his deliberate will was to take Barnabas. Singularly enough, Alford, who rejects ἐβούλετο, which is the reading of R.T., translates ἐβουλεύετο by "was minded," which is the translation of ἐβούλετο in the R.V. We see in this choice of Mark by Barnabas the natural partiality of a near relation. We may also see the same flexibility of disposition which made him yield to the influence of the emissaries of James (Galatians 2:13). Who was called. It might seem odd that this description of John should be repeated here after having been given in Acts 12:25. But perhaps it was usual so to designate him (see Luke 8:2; Luke 22:3; Matthew 10:3; Acts 1:23; Acts 10:6).
Take with them him for take him with them, A.V.; withdrew for departed, A.V. Withdrew. The Greek word ἀποστάντα (from which comes the substantive apostasy) is a strong one, and denotes decided blame, as does the indication of the opposite course, by way of contrast, which he did not take. "He did not go with them to the work" to which God called them, as he ought to have done. The whole phrase, too, which follows is strongly worded. "Paul thought good," as regards one who had turned back from the work, "not to take that man." The μὴ συμπαραλαβεῖν of Acts 15:38 is, as Meyer observes, sharply opposed to the συμπαραλαβεῖν of Acts 15:37. Luke evidently sides strongly with Paul, and almost reproduces the ipsissima verba of the "sharp contention." One would infer that this passage was penned by Luke before the reconciliation which appears in 2 Timothy 4:11, and that we have here an indication of the early date of the publication of "The Acts." Perhaps also there is an indication in the narrative, coupled with Mark's subsequent attach-merit to Peter, that Mark rather leant at this time to Judaizing views, and that his previous departure "from the work" was partly owing to a want of complete sympathy with St. Paul's doctrine. St. Paul would have no half-hearted helper in his grand and arduous work.
There arose a sharp contention for the contention was so sharp between them, A.V. and T.R.; parted for departed, A.V.; so that for so sharp … that, A.V.; and Barnabas for and so Barnabas, A.V.; took Mark with him for took Mark, A.V.; sailed away for sailed, A.V. There arose a sharp contention, etc. The sense "between them" must be supplied, if the English word "contention" is used. The word παροξυσμός only occurs twice in the New Testament: once in Hebrews 10:24, in a good sense, "To provoke" (for a provocation)—" stimulate or excite"—" unto love and good works," which is its common classical sense; the other time in this passage, where the sense is attributed to it in which it is used in the LXX., as in Deuteronomy 29:28, ἐν θυμῷ καὶ ὀργῇ καὶ παροξυσμῷ μεγάλῳ σφόδρα, "in great indignation;" and in Jeremiah 32:37 (39. 37, LXX.), coupled with the same words, ἐν παροξυσμῷ μεγάλῳ, "in great wrath;" answering to פצקֶ in Hebrew. But it is more probable that St. Luke uses the word here in its common medical sense. In medical writers—Galen, Hippocrates, etc.—the παροξυσμός is equivalent to what we call an access, from the Latin aecessio, used by Celsus, when a disease of some standing takes a turn for the worse, comes to a height, and breaks out into its severest form. This is the sense in which our English word "paroxysm" is used. The meaning of the passage will then be that, after a good deal of uncomfortable feeling and discussion, the difference between Paul and Barnabas, instead of cooling down, broke out into such an acute form that Barnabas went off to Cyprus with Mark, leaving St. Paul to do what he pleased by himself. And Barnabas, etc. The R.V. is much more accurate. The consequence of the quarrel is said by St. Luke to have been that Barnabas took Mark off with him to Cyprus. The statement that Paul chose Silas is a separate and independent statement, as appears by παῦλος (in the nominative) and ἐξῆλθε in the indicative mood. St. Luke's narrative quite sides with St. Paul, and throws the blame of the quarrel, or at least of the separation, upon Barnabas. Renan thinks St. Paul was too severe upon John Mark, and that it was ungrateful of him to break with one to whom he owed so much as he did to Barnabas for any cause of secondary importance. He also thinks that the real root of the quarrel lay in the constantly changing relations between the two apostles, aggravated by a domineering spirit in St. Paul. But the force of this censure turns upon the question whether it was a cause of secondary importance. If St. Paul had a single eye to the success of his mission, and judged that Mark would be a hindrance to it, it was a question of primary importance to "the work," and St. Paul was right. Renan also remarks upon the extinction of the fame of Barnabas consequent upon this separation from his more illustrious companion. "While Paul kept advancing to the heights of his glory, Barnabas, separated from the companion who had shed a portion of his own luster upon him, pursued his solitary course in obscurity." Sailed away. Cyprus was Barnabas's native country (Acts 4:36), and the scene of the earliest mission (Acts 11:19), and of Paul and Barnabas's first joint evangelistic labors (Acts 13:4). Barnabas would have many friends there, and could form plans at his leisure for his future action. The friendly mention of him in 1 Corinthians 9:6 shows both that he continued his disinterested labors as an apostle and that the estrangement between him and St. Paul had passed away. The paroxysm had yielded to the gentle treatment of charity.
But for and, A.V.; went forth or departed, A.V.; commended for recommended, A.V.; to for unto, A.V.; the Lord for God, A.V. and T.R. Chose Silas. If Acts 15:34 of the T.R. is a true reading, it accounts for the presence of Silas at Antioch. Otherwise there is no difficulty in supposing that Silas, attracted by the holy zeal of St. Paul and by desire to work among the Gentiles, had come back to Antioch after giving account to the apostles at Jerusalem of the success of his mission with Judas to the Churches at Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.
Syria and Cilicia (see Acts 15:23). This rather looks as if the "some days after" of Acts 15:36 did not cover a very long time, because the special mention of "the Churches of Syria and Cilicia" indicates that St. Paul's visit had some connection with the epistle addressed to them by the apostles and elders of the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 15:23), as we see from Acts 16:4 was the case. Confirming; as Acts 14:22; Acts 15:32; Acts 18:22 (T.R.). In the passive voice ἐπιστηρίζομαι means to "lean upon," as in 2 Samuel 1:6, LXX., and in classical Greek. Renan thus indicates their probable route: "They traveled by land northwards across the plain of Antioch, went through the 'Syrian Gates,' coasted the gulf of the Issus, crossed the northern branch of the Issus through the 'Amanean Gates,' then,, traversing Cilicia, went perhaps through Tarsus, crossed Mount Taurus through the 'Cilician Gates,' one of the most terrible passes in the world, and thus reached Lycaonia, going as far as Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium".
The apprehension of truth, full, pure, and unmixed with error, should be the desire of all good men. And it is a great help towards attaining truth when we are able to love it and to seek it absolutely for its own sake, without reference to its consequences, without regard to the wishes of others or undue submission to their opinions. It is also necessary for a man in pursuit of truth to divest himself of prejudices, and the influence of false opinions which he has adopted from habit, and without due consideration. The mind should approach the consideration of truth unwarped and uncolored by any subjective influences except the love of God and innocency of character. Divested of prejudices and of passions, and possessed of adequate knowledge, the mind would receive moral and religious truth with nearly as much certainty as it does mathematical problems. The object of controversy should be to clear away all prejudice, all ignorance, all passion, every groundless opinion and prepossession, which stand in the way of the acceptance of truth. And controversialists should be ready to admit the probalility that those who differ most widely from them may, for that very reason, see some side of truth which is hidden from their own eyes, and therefore should be ready to give a candid consideration to their arguments. The controversy which is described in its origin, progress, and settlement, in the passage before us, is an instructive one. We see on the side of the Judaizing party the types of the hindrances constantly existing to the reception of new truths. There was at first a blind and indiscriminate attachment to old opinions. They had been brought up in the belief that the Mosaic institutions were unchangeable. The very suggestion of a modification of them was treason against Moses and against God. They had been brought up in the belief that they were exclusively the people of God. All the pride and selfishness of their hearts rebelled against the idea of others being admitted to an equality of privileges with themselves. They had cherished a contempt and hatred for all other nations of the earth: how could they believe that those nations were as much objects of the love of God as they themselves were? Again, they had fattened in the opinion of their own righteousness, of their own moral superiority over other people: how could they be willing to accept a gospel which taught them that they could only be justified by grace, and that they must seek that grace on a level with all other sinners, through the merits of Jesus Christ? Again, their reverence for their rabbis and great men, and for their sayings and teaching, which they were accustomed to lean upon with a certain superstitious awe, and to quote with a proud fondness, was another hindrance to the reception of the gospel in its integrity by them. And all these influences, good and bad, concurred to close the eyes of their reason against all opposing evidence. They would, indeed, admit a Christianity which left the Law of Moses intact, and obliged all Christians to become Jews, so to speak. That exalted their nation, flattered their pride, increased their self-importance, left the prejudices of their childhood undisturbed. But the gospel as preached by Paul they could not and would not accept. The controversy on the other side was waged with fairness and firmness combined. St. Paul's large experience, both of the prejudices of his opponents, which he had once felt himself in their full power, and of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which had been manifested to him in so remarkable a manner, gave him an unrivalled command of the argument. He had as much reverence for Moses, as full a conviction of the Divine origin of the Law, of the inspiration of the prophets, and of the infallible authority of Holy Scripture, as his opponents had. But he had a deep insight into the doctrines of grace, borne witness to by the Law and the prophets, which they had not. He saw the harmony between the Old and New Testaments; how the Law was a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ; how Christ was the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believes; and how in the gospel of God's grace in Jesus Christ the Law was not destroyed, but fulfilled, tie had, therefore, a full certainty as to the main points of the controversy which others had not. And yet he was tender and considerate toward his opponents (Galatians 4:19), and brought, not abuse, but argument to bear against their errors; as in the two wonderful Epistles, to the Galatians and to the Romans. And in a similar spirit we find him here willing to refer the matters in dispute to the Church at Jerusalem, presided over as it was by James, who had the credit of leaning to the side of his antagonists. But combined with this gentleness we have to mark his unflinching firmness and boldness. It required no small courage and strength of conviction to withstand a person of such weight and authority as Peter, and to reprove him before the Church. It required no little heroism to go into the very stronghold of Judaism, and there, before James, and Peter, and the Pharisees, and the most Judaizing members of the Churches of Judaea, to proclaim the gospel of the free grace of God (Galatians 2:2; Acts 15:12), and the free admission of the Gentiles into the Church of Christ. And let us mark the result. All the true-hearted men were won by Paul's way. Peter recovered from his weakness and openly sided with Paul; James threw his great weight unequivocally into the same scale; Barnabas shook off his momentary hesitation; the whole assembly gave a unanimous vote in favor of Paul's view; and the Church was saved from disruption. In an age when the peace of the Church is so much disturbed by controversy, and when such violence, both of language and of action, is indulged in by those who wish to enforce their own views, it is important to study carefully the history of this first great and trying controversy, which threatened at one time to split the Church to its very foundations, but which was brought to such a happy issue, under the blessing of God, by the wisdom, charity, and firmness of the apostle to the Gentiles. God grant, of his tender mercy, a like spirit to the leaders of party in our own days, and a no less happy settlement of the questions which separate brother from brother, and impede the progress of Christian truth.
The proposal of two friends whose fast friendship was of many years' standing; of two brethren loving and beloved; of two apostles of Jesus Christ, who had long labored together to win souls to Christ and to advance the kingdom of God, and who had achieved together the most signal triumphs over the powers of darkness, who had suffered together, who had undergone the most appalling dangers together, who had stuck by one another under every circumstance of trial and difficulty;—the proposal, I say, of two such men to start together on a new errand of love, might have seemed to be the very last occasion likely to produce contention and strife. Alas! for the infirmity of our poor fallen nature, that any evil should arise from purposes so good and holy. The faithful, truthful record of the sacred history in our text suggests much caution and many useful lessons for Christian practice.
1. There was perfect agreement between the two apostles as to the end in view—the revisiting the Churches they had planted for the purpose of confirming them in the faith of Jesus Christ. As far as we know, they were both of one mind, both equally desirous of advancing the kingdom of God, both equally ready to spend and be spent for the Name of the Lord Jesus and for the spread of his gospel in the world. Thus far we may well believe that their communications on the subject of the new mission were carried on in perfect harmony and love, because there was in each a single eye and an unmixed motive, viz. the glory of Christ.
2. The difference arose when Barnabas proposed that they should take John Mark as their companion. Here we seem to detect the entrance in of human motives. His partiality for his cousin; possibly the feeling that his own softer character needed the support of a steady ally to enable him to hold his own against the strength of Paul's will; possibly too some leaning towards the Jewish party in the Church, or at least an unwillingness to offend them,—made him blind to the inconvenience of taking a half-hearted companion with them. He was consulting with flesh and blood, and not with the Spirit of God, when he made the suggestion. We can imagine that Paul objected at first with mildness, and pointed out the evils that might arise. He would dwell upon the vital interests of the mission, the dangers and difficulties of the work, the insufficient guarantee that John Mark's constancy would be equal to the task. It is, of course, possible, though it does not appear, that Paul may have judged Mark somewhat severely, or may have urged his objections without all the tenderness that was due to the feelings of Barnabas. But there is not the slightest evidence that this was so. Probably at first he hoped to persuade Barnabas to give up his project. Probably Barnabas hoped so to state his wish to reinstate John Mark that Paul might give way. But when these hopes broke down on either side, then gradually, no doubt, the discussion assumed a growing tone of asperity, till at length the paroxysm came on. Barnabas cut the discussion short by turning upon his heel, and separating himself from his old companion and friend, and going forth in self-will with his cousin to Cyprus. The old partnership with Paul was dissolved, and nothing remained for Paul to do but to choose another missionary companion, and pursue his project in sadness. We cannot doubt that the peace and joy of both apostles was clouded by this unfortunate episode. But St. Paid had probably the testimony of his conscience that he had acted from the purest motives, and, from the friendly mention of Barnabas alluded to in the note to verse 39, we may hope that, when the paroxysm had subsided, the old relations between the two brethren were restored to their former footing of cordimity and love. But the great practical lesson we learn is the importance of keeping our motives of action pure and simple. We must try and not allow our judgment to be clouded by partialities and personal influences of any kind. We must endeavor never to subordinate the great interests of the Church and of the gospel to any private feelings or wishes, however innocent in themselves. And even right feelings and reasonable wishes must be so kept under control as never to overflow the banks of reason and of charity, and never to injure the great cause of the gospel of Christ, to which they ought always to be made subservient. Generally, the narrative of this paroxysm enforces the wise words of St. James, "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (James 1:20, James 1:21).
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
A grave crisis in the kingdom of God: more lessons.
The crisis of the kingdom will be found in the life of the Divine Leader of the faith. In those hours when all that was human in him shrank from the sufferings and sorrows which were before him, or from the agony which was upon him, or from the darkness which enshrouded him, then was "the crisis of the world" and of the kingdom of God on earth. But this also was a crisis, grave and serious. If the Church at Antioch had yielded to these "false brethren" (Galatians 2:4), when they came to invade its liberty; or if—a much greater peril—the Church at Jerusalem had decided in favor of the Judaizers, and had passed a sentence that circumcision was necessary to salvation; and if Christian truth had thus been narrowed to the small dimensions of a mere adjunct to Judaism, where would Christianity have been to-day? From the incident here related we draw the lessons—
I. WHAT HARM ZEALOTRY MAY TRY TO DO. These men "who came down from Judaea" (Acts 15:1) were members of the Pharisaic party "which believed" (Acts 15:5); they were formal adherents of the Christian faith; they spake reverently of Christ, and believed themselves to be acting in the interests of his kingdom. Yet we know that they were taking a course which, if they had carried their point, would hove simply extinguished the faith in a few years. Often, since then, has blind zealotry done its best to bring about a condition which would have proved fatal to the cause of God and of redeemed humani